History in Kent => Life Writing => Topic started by: ann on July 14, 2014, 14:08:49

Title: From then to Now
Post by: ann on July 14, 2014, 14:08:49
I have really enjoyed reading this thread so thought I might give it a go myself.  Where to begin though.  At the very beginning I suppose.

My parents were relatively elderly when they had me. They had been married some10 years before I was born. According to mum I was a much wanted baby so I am not sure why they waited so long for me to come along. Anyway, whatever the reason they waited and I was conceived during August bank holiday at Bournemouth. Mum said I had been due in March and was so overdue that she was taken for some bumpy bus rides to try and bring labour on (no such thing as inducing back then).

I finally arrived at the end of April 1947 on cup final Saturday. It was evidently a really warm sunny day. A contrast to the previous harsh winter when it had been so cold the water taps in the houses in Lancelot Avenue where we lived were frozen. There was a standby pipe in the middle of the road and Mum told me how she had to put dad’s old army socks on over her boots so she didn’t slip and go and fill up a bucket with water. 

A phone call had informed my maternal grandmother of my arrival and she came over from Essex that same afternoon with my aunt to see us. Some journey on public transport.  My dad was rung at work but he would not have got home until after work to see us both.  In those days maternity leave was unheard of and the men had to go about their normal tasks as usual.  My father worked for W Paine’s & Co, men’s outfitters and pawn brokers at their branch in Strood, on the corner of Station Road. (More about this later).

Because they had been married for a number of years before I was born they must have saved a little as mum had a private doctor for her confinement. It was 1947 and a year before the birth of the National Health Service. It turned out that this was just as well as she had a very difficult time giving birth to me and ended up having to have a forceps delivery. The doctor in attendance was Dr Gee from Rochester (more of him later). She was ill for a long time afterwards and due to the forceps delivery I was cut on left side of my forehead and have the scar to this day.

My very first memories centre on the beginning of 1950. I had been playing dolly’s washday and mum had tied a small piece of string between the leg of a chair and the leg of the dining table for a washing line.  I had tripped over this and fell awkwardly.  I had actually fractured my femur and spent quite a time in hospital, much lying on my back with my leg up in traction.  Things were very different back then. It was not felt to be good for parents to be with their children as it would upset them! So upon admission to St Barts in Rochester a porter took me from my mother’s arms screaming, and I did not see her until the time came for her to bring me home. I remember being in St Barts in the children’s ward and being in a cot with sides. There was a boy in the next bed and whether his name was Peter, or I have the memory because I can recall having a book there, Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit I do not know.  I used to love to sniff books (still do) and I can recall even now that smell.  I also remember being told off by a rather scary nurse in a ‘fancy’ hat because I had had an accident in the bed. My other memory of St Barts is being wheeled down a long winding corridor and seeing a nurse sitting astride and riding a rocking horse. She had on a Dutch bonnet style white cap.  I was probably hallucinating following having had my leg set.

I was then moved to St Williams Hospital, up Delce Road, I do not know why, but I much preferred my stay there. The nurses were much nicer. They wore either pink and white or green and white striped dresses. I was put in the ladies ward. I don’t know if they didn’t have a children’s ward there or why I had been moved in the first place. But of course I got spoilt rotten by the ladies. I also used to get special treats from the nurses too. They knew I had a fondness for sugar lumps so would often sneak one through the servery to me.  I had no visitors all the time I was in either hospital and when it was time for me to go home, cried when my mother came to collect me.  I truly felt I had been abandoned. Little did I know that mum and dad, and my gran and aunts all used to come up to the hospital but were only allowed to look in at me in the ward through a window. How very hard that must have for my mum.

I think it was around Easter time I came home. What sticks in my mind is being in a taxi sitting on mums knee and it driving slowly down Lancelot Avenue. (Quite an event, using a taxi back then). Several neighbours were out in the street waving as we arrived home.  I had to be carried in as I had forgotten how to walk. There waiting for me inside was a silver cross dolls pram in maroon. A present from an aunt bought to help me to learn to walk again. The tablecloth at lunchtime had yellow flowers embroidered by my aunt. (Strange the things that stick in ones mind).   I can still remember so many of our old neighbours from back then,-  names and faces.  Today however I would be hard pushed to name more than a couple in my cul-de-sac.  People were much more friendly back then, and would chat and help each other out, and of course most women were at home anyway during the day.

From a very young age I desperately wanted to go to school and pestered my mum. So she sent me to a kindergarten school in Cuxton Road, Strood. It was a private school run by a Miss Crockford.  She was a very tall, thin lady with white short hair curled up at the bottom. I started there two weeks before I was 4 in 1951. It was in a large 3 storey terraced house (virtually opposite where you come up from Tesco’s onto Cuxton Road).

It was for pre-school children so I suppose you would call it a nursery school. But very different from what they are like today. We did lessons. Arithmetic and writing and reading and the classroom was in the basement. We used nib pens and ink (imagine that now with under 5’s) I can remember I had progressed to ‘joined up writing’ by the time I left. There was no playground, only a garden in the back but I don’t recall we had a playtime.  Lunchtime we had to go home and then return again in the afternoon for further lessons.  On a Friday afternoon there were no formal lessons and we were given either shells or tiles with letters on to play with. I also did sewing although I cannot really remember this, but still have this little miniature apron I made whilst there. I suppose it was a kind of sampler, with different stitches.  They boys would have done something different.
 We would make calendars to take home as presents. Miss Crockford would draw a picture on a large piece of paper and we would paint it in using water colours.  A small calendar booklet would then be attached to the bottom.  She was quite artistic and at Christmas if you had done a good piece of work she would draw a holly twig in green ink with bright red berries on it.  This was greatly coveted.

I think it was Janet and John books we had to read, and these could be bought in the shop opposite (the building is still there but is now part of the garage Wrights). It also sold prams. I left there in March 1953, the day that my cousin David was born.  Dad and my uncle came to collect me as mum had gone to be with my auntie Kath in her confinement over in Grays in Essex. There was really thick fog and it was so bad that no ferries were operating between Gravesend and Tilbury at all and so we got a taxi and went round to relatives in Augustine Road, Gravesend for the night. I remember we all slept in a large very high up bed. It had a brass frame and really downy mattress and was so high I had to be lifted into it.

I remember starting my first day at the infant school in Elaine Avenue School and how surprised I was that there were toys to play with – I remember a dolls house. I had been so used to sitting doing sums and writing and it seemed very strange.

I was a petite child and often called ‘little Ann’, and I suppose was the teachers pet.  My infant teacher Miss Lipton had me as her bridesmaid. I remember visiting her at Upchurch where she lived with her mother, obviously to do my dress fitting. We had currant bread with butter on to eat and I thought it really strange.  My bridesmaid dress was blue. Strangely on the same day as I was her bridesmaid I was also bridesmaid for a second time in the afternoon to my cousin over in Essex. This time I wore peach. I wonder how we fitted it all in.  There was only mum and I (dad had to work) and we had to travel from Strood to Gillingham in the morning and then over to Essex in the afternoon – all on public transport.  I was a bridesmaid on two other occasions.  Once to my aunt when I wore lemon, and the other was to a cousin and this time I wore blue. I remember it was cold and so we  had a white fur cape and a white fur muff. I guess I was really lucky to be a bridesmaid so many times, it was every young girls dream to be one.

I can remember couple a of other teachers during my time at Elaine. There was Mr Fenner, quite a short teacher with large bushy eyebrows that turned up at the outside.  I remember he did a pastel drawing of me and I kept it for years – wish I still had it! I remember him giving the slipper to a boy who had upset one of the lady teachers and made her cry, Miss Bloomfield. Another teacher I recall was Mr. Harmer who came from Chalk.

Something that was compulsory for children of my generation was school milk.  Full cream (no skimmed or semi skimmed then) and I hated it.  The bottles would be brought into the classroom in a large metal crate, holes punctured through the metal foil caps and straws inserted.  There was not a choice, you had to drink it.  Likewise school dinners.  You had what was dished up to you, and you had to clear your plate.  I was lucky as I went home each lunchtime and had a mid day meal cooked by mum as it was not far to walk. But back then children weren’t driven to school, they walked.  Most families were lucky if they even had a car, and most mothers didn’t even know how to drive (unlike the 4 x 4 brigades of today).

Aged 11 I sat the 11 plus test.  In the area back then the girls only had the option of passing and going to grammar or failing and going to the secondary modern.  Then at 13 you could take another exam to try and get into the technical high school, this taught a secretarial course.  I failed the 11 plus and so went to Chapter Road School for girls in Cliffe Road for a couple of years. School uniform was navy, and in the summer we wore a navy check full skirt.  We also had to wear a tie.  I can recall that there were school dances held there, really the only place to go for teenagers of an evening, apart from youth clubs.  We had a very strict French teacher and my knowledge of the language (what little there is) was learnt from the couple of years with her.  One day during lesson she suddenly grabbed the desk and began to bleed from the mouth and then collapsed on the floor. You can imagine the hysteria of a lot of young girls (the teacher survived it was a burst ulcer).  I also recall the needlework teacher who had whiskers.  She would throw chalk at you and spit when she spoke.  When it was the last day of term, those leaving would bring into school eggs and flour and throw them at each other in the playground.

I took the technical exam at 13 and passed and so I then went to Medway Technical High School for Girls – Fort Pitt. This was what I wanted to do, become a secretary. I had long got past the childish wish of wanting to work in a sweet shop, and mum knew her dream of me becoming a hairdresser was not going to happen either.  The headmistress at this time was Miss Sackett.

Fort Pitt has formerly been used as a hospital during the Crimea War. I recall some of the classrooms with high skylights (theatre rooms) and also the hospital floors – where the walls and floor met in a curve. In the long corridors upstairs we ate our school dinners.  Separate from the main building was the Crimea block. This was the domestic science block where we did our cooking. Formerly it had been the building where the mentally insane patients were treated.  I do not recall much enjoyment from the cookery classes.  Any enjoyment was outweighed by the cleaning at the end.  Large wooden cooking blocks which we had to scrub down after each lesson. I also recall that I never trusted the teachers ingredients, I always felt they scrimped on them.  Two dishes come to mind illustrating this. The first was apple crumble.  I decided to double the sugar quantity – poor dad couldn’t eat it because it was so sweet. The other disaster – blatantly visible to the teacher, concerned the icing of a cake.  Again I felt the amount given was insufficient. This time it was colouring of the icing, blue.  Ever seen an iced cake in navy! I was severely reprimanded for that misdemeanour.

What I still find puzzling is some of the subjects we had to drop to accommodate the secretarial course.  This meant I did commerce, accounts, shorthand and typing, and the two I vividly recall dropping were science, i.e. physics, chemistry etc, and French!  It was a very strict dress code there.  Again navy, and a small skull like cap/hat.  The fashion when I was there was for beehive hairstyles. You can imagine it was like a pea sitting on top, held by pins to keep on.  If you were caught outside of school by prefects incorrectly dressed (i.e. no hat, scarf over your head etc) you would be reported.  Nylons were worn and of course laddered quite often and easily. The trick to stop the run would be to put some nail varnish at the top of it.  It worked but you can imagine it did not look very good.  The new headmistress (Miss Elliot) brought in a new rule. No nylons, only thick Lyle stockings like our grandmothers wore.  We rebelled, started a petition and even got a mention in the local paper.  Of course we didn’t win.  The problem with them was that if you were short and small like me it didn’t stretch the Lyle at all and looked even thicker than on some of the larger girls. (Nora Batty style!)

I was quite well behaved I think, but there was one teacher I was constantly rude to and would chatter in class. This was Miss Cook who taught English. Many, many years later I met up with her at an Adult Education Class, and she was such a sweet lady. I bitterly regretted how I had treated her back then.  I seem to recall that she had written a book on the history of the church at Meopham, St Johns.

Anyway, back to bad behaviour at the Tech!  There was a desk and chair situated near the headmistresses study and this is where you would be sent to work if you had misbehaved in class.  The fear always was that she would come out of the room and see you. There were some teachers, who I got on well with, and one or two that put fear into most of the girls.  Miss Green who taught maths and accounts fell into this category.  She was also a Catholic and when it was RE, the Catholic girls had to go to study with her.
One really nice teacher was Mrs Chatsworth who taught shorthand and typing.  Typing was done on old manual keyboards.  Mistakes had to be erased with special rubbers and often caused holes in the paper.  Obviously we had to learn to touch type and if caught looking at the keyboard a guard would be put over it.  If a table needed to be done, or columns etc, then we had to work out using tabulation where each should begin.  Any lines or borders would then be drawn in red ink.  Again this could easily mess up a piece of work with a careless smudge.    We had to sit exams for both subjects, and speed as well as accuracy was required.  I can recall that the course was also for 2 years and so whilst staying on at school until 16 it meant that if you wanted to then do GCSE’s you had to stay on longer.

More to follow.

Title: Re: From then to Now
Post by: Minsterboy on July 14, 2014, 14:20:23
Well written Little Ann, I imagine busyglen will thoroughly enjoy reading it.

Fancy not liking proper milk, it was good that we had to drink it because it made us good and healthy bones and tasted so much better than the semi-skimmed rubbish that we tend to drink these days.
Title: Re: From then to Now
Post by: ann on July 14, 2014, 14:29:13
Thanks for the encouragement.  Guess I will be stuck now with 'Little Ann'.
Incidentally the photo of my dad at Paines should not have been included here. Sorry.  Had hoped to put the other photos where relevant amid the write up but not got it right yet.
Title: Re: From then to Now
Post by: John38 on July 14, 2014, 20:49:43
This is turning out to be a well balanced board, which is presenting a real social commentary. Ann's delightful first episode is an excellent read. Congratulations, Ann, looking forward to the next episode.
Title: Re: From then to Now
Post by: oobydooby on July 14, 2014, 22:44:47
A good start to what I think will turn out to be an excellent read if your first chapter is anything to go by.  A good start indeed 'Little Ann' :)
Title: Re: From then to Now
Post by: busyglen on July 15, 2014, 18:56:57
Just back off holiday, and saw your post Ann.  Love it and recognise quite a bit that was in tandem with my memories.  Really looking forward to more.  :)
Title: Re: From then to Now
Post by: ann on July 16, 2014, 14:01:06
Had a day out in France yesterday, so only just back on line.  Thank you all for your positive comments. It is always a worry that what we find interesting, is not necessarily so to others.
Next part to follow shortly.
Title: Re: From then to Now
Post by: ann on July 16, 2014, 15:17:20

The house in Lancelot Avenue where I was born and brought up was semi detached and had been built circa 1935. Lancelot, Galahad and Elaine Avenues had been built by 2 developers by the names of Bornstein and Curtis. The area had previously been a potato field. Mum and Dad moved in to it when it was new when Dad had become the manager of Paines in Strood.  All of the houses were for rental only.

It had a very steep set of steps down to the front door.  On the ground floor were 2 rooms, the dining room and a living room plus the kitchen. In the dining room all meals were taken, sitting up at a table.  I had to say prayers before and after each meal. I also was made to sit and eat everything, and I have memories of Sundays sitting for ages alone at the table because I had not finished my rice pudding.  It was always some type of rice pudding on a Sunday and was not my favourite.  This has made my parents sound very harsh and unkind, but that was not the case at all.  Having just come through the war and rationing, waste of any kind was frowned upon.

In the sitting room were the comfortable seats, and in one corner a fitted narrow cupboard where crockery was kept.  Below the bottom shelf was my space where I would keep my toys and books.

Both rooms had coal fires, but only one would be used. (I wonder if this is correct now as cannot imagine eating in an unheated room.) Each morning the fire grate would have to be cleared of ash, and then freshly laid. Once a week mum would do the black leading. Once cleared, screwed up newspapers would be placed in the hearth, then thin strips of wood cut especially to fit (by dad).  Then coal on top.  A match would be struck and the paper ignited.  If it didn’t light properly a large piece of newspaper would be held over the opening causing a vacuum and somehow this would cause the flames to flare and light the wood and coals.  The trouble was that if you weren’t careful the paper you were holding would catch light too.

Fire guards were the norm in most houses, partly for safety with children but also the larger ones were used to put damp washing on to air.  The coal used in those days often used to spit out and, whilst the guard would stop it landing and singing the carpet, it could land on the washing hanging on the airier.  There was a fire in a neighbour’s house, but the cause is somewhat muddled in my mind.  I have a notion of a spark setting alight some nappies hanging there, but also recall the chimney had caught fire.  No causalities luckily but I remember the neighbours rallying out with clothing for the woman’s children.  Because of coal fires, chimneys had to be regularly swept.  Mum would clear the room before the sweep arrived, rolling back carpets etc. she would dress herself in old working clothes with a wrap round apron covering most of it and have her hair tied up in a duster.  As children we used to love to go outside and watch for the broom to appear out of the chimney top, and give a loud yell to let the sweep know. Despite having put a protective sheet over the fireplace, there was always plenty of mess and dust left for mum to clean up once he had gone. Needless to say she did not look forward to his visits.

The kitchen was at the back of the house. It had both gas and electricity. To get hot water you would either have had to have a fierce fire burning to heat the water in the back boiler, or later switch on the immersion heater.  Washing was done by hand or in coppers. Mum had a white thick copper stick (with splits). Her boiler was an iron gas one, and then she upgraded to a Baby Burco.  When I was young my job was to do the mangling - hated it.  Mum never did get a washing machine, even in her later years she still used to do all her washing by hand.  When I was young sheets were white cotton. I remember the old Reckitts blue bag which was put in the rinse water to help keep the whites, white.  I also remember she used to mix up starch for dads shirt collars etc.  She had a long high washing line you used pulleys on - somehow seeing rows of sparkling white washing blowing in the wind to my mind was far more satisfying than these rotary things we have nowadays.

Mums kitchen was really tiny and it is hard to imagine how it all fitted in. A large deep butler sink with a wooden draining board took up most of one wall alone.  In the hallway was a pantry.  This was the storage area for everything, food, tins, pots and pans etc.  It was also where the gas and electricity meters were housed.  Next to it was another door which opened up into the coal store.  A small opening on the side of the house allowed the coal delivery man to tip the sacks of coal straight into it. This was later cleaned out and used for storage, and a separate coal bunker built outside.  I had the task of counting the sacks as they were delivered (to make sure we got the correct number.)  I used to enjoy it when the meters were emptied. A man would call and tip out all of the money onto a table and then count it out into piles.  He would then make some calculation and mum would be given some coins back.

Mum used to have several tins which she used for putting away each week sums of money ready for paying bills.  This would include money for the meters; coal for the fires, groceries and of course the Prudential insurance monies.  She would also budget for the window cleaner, the chimney sweep and Christmas.  A bread van would visit daily as well as a milkman.

Upstairs were 2 bedrooms, plus another very small room known as the ‘box room’, and a bathroom with WC.  Both of the bedrooms had fitted electric fires, and one had a fitted airing cupboard.  The box room had half of its space taken up by a fitted box which was where the stairwell space was.  I had been born in the back bedroom but I can only ever remember this as being my bedroom.  This is all it ever was, a place to sleep at night. Friends were never taken up there.  I did have some choice when it came to being redecorated, but was never allowed to put up posters or stick things to the wall.  Choosing wallpaper used to be fun.  Dad would bring home a couple of very large books with paper samples from us to choose from. There might also be another one with borders, so you could match them up.

The bathroom would have been a luxury for my parents. Neither of them grew up with an inside toilet or a bath with running water. Whilst it was outside, mums home toilet had at least been of brick construction and one that flushed. For dad it was a ‘privy’ up the top of the garden. A wooden hut with no light at all (unless you left the door open!) and a hole in a wooden board to sit on.  I think the cess tank was at the very bottom of the garden, and I know my uncle used to grow some amazing crops!  The bathroom at Lancelot housed an enamel white roll top bath and enamel toilet with an old cistern and pull chain. The toilet had a wooden seat, which dad would periodically varnish and mum would regularly clean and polish!  The bathroom was freezing. Oh the joy of the ritual bath (via immersion heater).  The freezing cold bathroom. and not wanting to come out. Mum waiting to wrap me in a large towel (warm from coming out of the airing cupboard) and run downstairs with me to dry me off by the blazing coal fire. The immersion heater was only switched on for the weekly baths. At other times water was boiled up in a kettle on the gas stove (something my mother always continued to do all her life.) My night clothes would be laid out in front of the roaring fire to warm. This was something done regularly on cold days with hat, gloves and shoes all laid in front of the fire to warm. Of an evening slippers would be placed there ready for whoever was due home.

For women back then work was far from easy. There were no soap powders and washing was done with either large blocks of soap rubbed vigorously against clothes held against a scrubbing board, or shavings off the soap bar boiled up in water.  The soap would be purchased off the ‘oil man’ who used to call weekly.  It would be cut off a really large block – it may have been Sunlight soap.

Fitted carpets had yet to be invented and lino would cover all the floors, with rugs or maybe a carpet in the centre of the room.  So floors would not only need to be washed but waxed too.

The back garden was very large.  At the top end was a grassed area where I could play and mum could sit.  Behind it when I was young was the old corrugated air raid shelter where dad kept his gardening tools.  Eventually this was dismantled and dad got himself a shed/come budgerigar aviary.  He used to breed the birds and then sell them.  Mum always had a pet one indoors and she taught each one of them to talk.  I didn’t like them at all especially when mum used to let the bird out each evening for a short while ‘to stretch his wings’.

The rest of the garden was given over mainly to vegetables, and flowers that dad would enter into the local vegetable and Flower shows. There were two he regularly contributed to, the ‘Jubilee’ Gardeners Association and St Francis Gardeners Association.   These were held in the church hall in Elaine Avenue. Dad was quite successful with his entries (but having been brought up on a farm he obviously knew exactly what he was doing).

 The garden supplied most of our seasonal vegetables. Nothing tasted sweeter than picking a peapod straight from the branch and eating the peas there and then.  I also used to love the freshly pulled carrots, they tasted so sweet.  On Sundays in the summer dad would go down and dig the new potatoes ready for lunch and what ever vegetables there were.  I would scrabble in the rich freshly dug earth and pick up all the potatoes and take into mum.  My job was then to collect fresh mint from the garden.  I would chop this up finely and put into a small dish and add vinegar and sugar and leave to marinade.  The only fruit I can recall him growing were strawberries and gooseberries. 

When I was old enough to have ‘my own garden’ I was given a small section which I made into a rockery and which I would tend carefully. I also loved to help dad when it was planting time.  Dad would put 2 sticks in the ground, one each side and attach a piece of string between them. This gave him a straight line to work with and he would use the hoe to make a narrow channel for putting the seeds and sets in.  I was allowed to put the seeds in and learned how far apart to place them. Then he would then go back along the furrow pushing the earth back to cover the seeds and making a little mound so he could see where he had planted.  He grew a really wide range of vegetables and I can still recognise what the crops are in the ground simply by looking at their foliage.

Dad worked long hours with the traveling involved to and fro work and most of his spare time (and there was not much of it) would be working in the garden.  He took great pride in it, and it always looked immaculate and well tended.  Because the house was set down from the road and path it was quite easy for people to look into, so dad grew a long tall privet hedge all along the front.  This would be regularly cut and trimmed with precision despite it being done with hand shears.

 Mum too took pride in her work.  I think people back then were much more proud of their surroundings. I was often told off for chalking numbers on the pavement outside to play hopscotch. Mum would sweep and then scrub the front doorstep and porch. Polish and wipe the front door and brasso the letter box. At the back she would also sweep and swirl down with water and lift the drain cover and scrub together with the manhole cover.  The window ledges were red tiles and these would have red polish applied and then shone.  This would be a weekly task.

Neighbours back then were so much friendlier, and I can still remember the names of many of them. Often mum would be stood at the top of the front steps chatting to someone (and it was not unusual for her to have just popped down to the Co-op in Galahad and be gone for over an hour, having met a neighbour and got talking).  The lady who lived next door (in the adjoining semi) who I called Aunt Rose (but who was no relation at all) used to come round  for morning coffee (Camp coffee) with mum and in the afternoons mum would go round to hers for afternoon tea.   It was how it was then for children to call neighbours who your parents were friendly with, auntie or uncle as a sign of respect.  Poor Aunt Rose was a widow, and would never watch any programmes to do with war or Remembrance. I later found out that her husband Alfred Abnett had gone down with his ship. He was a Petty Officer/Stoker in the Navy.  He drowned on 27th April 1941 when his ship HMS Wryneck was sunk after rescuing troops. His name is on the Chatham Naval Memorial on the Lines at Gillingham.  Aunt Rose lived next door always.

Of course back then women were at home all day, didn’t have cars, and would have to go shopping far more frequently. Therefore it is entirely logical that they saw each other far more often.
Title: Re: From then to Now
Post by: John38 on July 16, 2014, 16:12:55
Excellent, many thanks for sharing, Ann
Title: Re: From then to Now
Post by: Minsterboy on July 16, 2014, 16:46:21
Excellent stuff Ann and being the same age as you, it brings back many memories of childhood, although presumably because of your father's job, you had luxuries at an earlier age than I did.
The one item that you mentioned that stuck in my mind, was the "copper stick", my mother had one just the same and when it got wet each time it went all soft and soapy. I also had the job of doing the mangling, squashing a finger many a time.
Title: Re: From then to Now
Post by: peterchall on July 16, 2014, 20:14:48
That post evokes so many memories of my childhood, even though it was a ‘little bit’ before yours – not much seems to have changed in the intervening time.

Chopping wood and the art of lighting an open fire – having the sweep in – coal delivered in sacks, with the coalman carrying the sacks of coal on his back right through the house. Washday (in which, as a boy, I played little part!) with separate washing of ‘whites’ and ‘coloureds’ – Reckitt’s Blue.

And much more!

Ref your earlier comment about the worry that what interests us might not interest others – don’t worry! Nothing that any of us writes will ever interest everyone so, as some newspaper editor once said, “Publish and be damned”. Those people not interested don’t have to read it.
Title: Re: From then to Now
Post by: Sentinel S4 on July 16, 2014, 20:36:19
I agree with Peterchall (hang out the flags because we agree on something  :) ) over the memories of childhood. I am a little younger than Little Anne (hehehe) but even in the late 1960's and early 1970's things still had not changed that much. Oh the (nearly) lost art of laying a fire, anyone else use shingle for the clinker to grab?

As for writing this I found it very cathartic and to hell with the rest! Do it for you and if we read it then that is a bonus, for you as well as us. Keep going please. I mentioned the Fort Pitt to my Mum and she well remembered the teachers you mention (she was there a couple of years before you).

I am enjoying this a lot as I have with all of the others, must be the nosey-parker in me.

Title: Re: From then to Now
Post by: ashwood on July 17, 2014, 10:17:13
Mangling, that brings back memories A nasty contraption with large wooden rollers and a large screw at the top to get the pressure right.  Turning the handle in the back yard and enjoying pinched fingers with Minster Boy.  Father used to light the copper fire before going to work. Keep the memories coming.
Title: Re: From then to Now
Post by: ann on July 17, 2014, 16:07:34
Thank you all for your very kind and positive remarks.  I have digressed a little from my main story, but hope this will still be of interest.

My father was born in 1910 in Noke Street, and lived with his parents in a workers cottage at Wainscott on Whiteheads farm. He was one of 7 children. The cottages have long since gone, but I believe Bunters Farm is still there on the corner and this was where his grandparents lived.

(In later years it was this couple and the description given by an aunt that got me intrigued and hooked on tracing my ancestry.  It was said that ‘granny was born in a caravan and was related to Gypsy Rose Lee’ and that granddad had long flowing hair ‘like Jesus’ and wore a ring in his ear.  I was never able to find the connection, but did trace that 2 sisters who were relatives of granny (maiden name Gibbs) had married lads with the name Boswell.)

Back to my tale.  On Sunday mornings I remember that dad would take me to visit his parents out at Noke Street. We would walk the whole way there, quite a walk for a young girl.  Then we would walk back down to near the Stag pub in the main street and get the bus back home in time for Sunday lunch. 

There were times when we all went to visit and stayed for tea. Granny would always pick a large bunch of flowers for my mum to bring home, usually dahlias.  I only have sketchy memories of the farm cottage, which evidently had beams on the walls inside.  You approached the cottage up a long path to the front door, but we never used this, we always went in round the back into the scullery. This had a large stone floor and stone walls (nothing like our kitchen at home). There was a butler type sink, and small paraffin stove. A tin bath hung on the wall. You went down a wide wooden step into the main room.  One wall was taken up with a cooker range. This gave the only heat to the house, and it was where granny did all her cooking.  There was a little door in it where the coal or wood would be put to burn.  Either side of the range gran and granddad had a chair.  Along another wall was a long chaise longue and in the middle of the room a dining table and chairs. (In later years they did have a small TV).
From this room you went down a steep wooden step into the best parlour. Never knew this room to be used (although I think it was for Xmas) There was a smell of ‘not used much’. There was a fireplace and either side of the hearth was a black and a white fire dog – small metal ones.  In the centre of the room was a glass display cabinet that belonged to an aunt who still lived at home.  To get upstairs you had to undo a wooden door at the side of the room which gave way to a very twisting and steep staircase.  There was a very thick white rope that you used to help you up. I cannot remember ever seeing the room where gran and granddad used, but vaguely remember my uncle’s room and an old jug and bowl standing on a marble topped table.  Goodness knows how they all fitted in to this accommodation when children.

There was no inside sanitation and indeed the only toilet was up the garden path and in a small wooden hut (cesspit drainage) There was like a wooden bench with a hole cut in it. I was terrified going there especially at night.  There would be spiders and other creepy crawlies and it would be pitch dark (no light), and freezing cold.  You needed to use a torch to guide you outside to find it and then inside too. It was up a little path that passed by the rabbit hutches and next to the orchard at the back.  There was a plum tree there that had supposedly grown from a pip that one of the children had thrown when sitting on the loo as a child.  The orchard at the back had apples, and at one time pigs used to roam in it.

The family (like many) were poor, and money was very scarce. Even granny had to work on the land, and dad would have to do various tasks such as tying up the cabbage and lettuce heads (to encourage hearts to form) to help to buy boots for school.  It would seem that his parents wanted more for him and when he left school in 1924 at the age of 14 he was put into a 5 year apprenticeship as an apprentice pawn broker to the firm of William Paine & Co Ltd. at their Strood Branch. The firm had 3 stores, one in Strood, one in Chatham High Street and a third in Grays in Essex. He was so small he could not see over the counter and had to stand on a tin box to serve customers.

The Memorandum of Agreement (apprenticeship document is copied at the end) states that he began his apprenticeship on 6th October 1924.  The document is dated 28th October and is signed by dad, his father who has to agree to provide him with board and lodging, suitable wearing apparel and to provide medical attendance if required and H Paine. His wages (as set out in the document) were 5 shillings per week and by half yearly rises of sixpence per week, to the sum of 9 shillings and sixpence for the last half of the year of the said term.  Then his wage was increased to 12/- per week. He was expected to work from 8am to 7pm Monday-Thursday, 8am to 8 pm on Friday and 8am to 9pm on Saturday.  Wednesday was a half day. At the end of the apprenticeship period there followed a period of ‘improving’.

When dad had finished his 5 year apprenticeship (age 19) he went to work at the Grays shop. In 1929-1932 he was employed as an ‘improver’ for 3 years and then from 1932 as under manager. Because of the travel distance involved he lodged during the week with a family in Brook Road, Grays. This was how he met my mother who also lived in Brook Road. They married in 1936 at Grays Parish Church and held their reception at the old Drill Hall and set up home in Grays. Dad was then moved back to the Strood branch in 1937 and became manager and so he and mum moved to a newly built house in the area in Lancelot Avenue.  In 1940 dad was called up to serve and after the war had to go back to the Grays branch for a refresher course under the manager there. Then he returned to Strood and I know was still there when I was born and for some years after.  Subsequently the Grays manager was dismissed and dad sent back again to the Grays store as the new manager. I am not sure if there was pawn broking at the Chatham Branch, but it continued at the other two. Dad worked there until the business was sold and subsequently the shop demolished and redeveloped sometime in the 70’s. In fact all of the 3 shops owned by the company were sold off.  (Not sure when the Strood one closed but may have been earlier as it may have been done for the widening of the road there).

All sorts of items were pledged including clothes and household bedding. To have a better selection to sell, if the pledges were not redeemed, extra supplies of new goods were bought. Paines at Grays had a number of different departments including the Pawnbrokers. I cannot remember the interior of the Strood shop but feel it would have been similar to that at Grays as both stores were similar. They were both large, occupied a prime corner position and the buildings themselves seemed old and rambling. The ground floor was the sales area and housed the pawn shop. Upstairs was a very dark area with lots of wooden shelves (and not very clean). It ran along the whole length of the shop. Apart from holding spare stock this was where the pawned goods were also stored – either to be redeemed by a due date or if left uncollected for a certain period of time they were then sold. Once a year at the Grays shop the rat man used to call to clear out dead vermin and lay new poison. The smell when he was there was awful. I recall lots of the parcels in the upstairs were tied with brown paper and string. In the Grays store payments would be sent through to the office via a cash railway. A wooden container would have money and the bill placed in it and it would then be screwed into a metal holder and propelled by a catapult to the cash desk. It was operated by a handle on a rope which would be suspended from the ceiling. The assistant would pull this down and it would wind the machine up. Upon release it sped off along a wire near to the ceiling to the cash office and then any change etc. would be sorted by the cashier and returned to the department in the same way. There was a network of rail tracks along the ceilings in all the departments for this purpose. I think it was likely that this was a Rapid Wire. I assume they would also have had the same system in both the Strood and Chatham stores. I worked there during some of my school holidays when I was old enough (c. 1960’s) I can still remember the special ‘code’ that was used on the price tickets which showed what the goods had actually cost. SCOPDEMAIN (each letter representing a number 1- 10). My father used to make the long journey from Strood to Grays each day Monday to Saturday (even for the half day Wednesday) for many, many years. This involved a 20 minute walk from home, 30 minute bus ride to Gravesend, then the old ferry over the Thames to the riverside where he used to board the train for Grays. Often when the weather was bad and there was dense fog, the ferry would not be running and then dad used to travel up and back via Blackwall. Of course by the time the shop was sold, the pawn broking side of the business was no longer operating. I can recall dad saying how there would be queues of the ‘usuals’ waiting outside for him to open on certain days. He also spoke of a particular lady called Annie who used to urinate on the floor whilst waiting there. (I can recall early on that there was straw laid on the old wooden floorboards). People would come in a small side door and into the area. It was all dark wood panelling and Dad would stand the other side of a high counter/wall and negotiate prices etc.  (Strange to think pawn brokers are back again on our High Streets).
Title: Re: From then to Now
Post by: John38 on July 17, 2014, 17:02:02
You have produced a very unique and interesting record of the progress of a boy apprentice to manager in the Pawn Trade. Many thanks.
Title: Re: From then to Now
Post by: peterchall on July 17, 2014, 17:26:49
Ann, do you know if your grandfather had to pay a ‘premium’ to Paine’s to have your father apprenticed with them? As mentioned in my thread ‘Pee Cee’s World’, my father narrowly escaped having to pay £40 to have me apprenticed as a motor mechanic in 1945. In the event I was apprenticed with a firm that didn’t require that, but I was surprised to find that I only got ‘Improvers’ pay when I finished, and it’s interesting that what I saw as crafty swindle – the indentures said nothing about it – also applied to the shop trade.
Title: Re: From then to Now
Post by: ann on July 17, 2014, 18:17:02
I am sorry, but I do not know if any premium had to be paid by my grandfather. The only other documentation I have is when dad completed the apprenticeship and is from the firm stating so (must look it out).  Dad never mentioned a premium and knowing how detailed his memory was of this part of his life together with the fact that he kept the papers all his life, I doubt it.
Title: Re: From then to Now
Post by: ann on July 22, 2014, 15:13:03


I have very happy memories of growing up but I can recall being lonely at times as I was an only child.  I really envied my friend June who lived next door who not only had an older brother (which I dearly wanted) but she was also allowed to have friends in and play up in her bedroom. Of course the plus of not having any siblings was that I did not have to share my toys.  There was teddy (pictured below) who I still have sitting in my bedroom.  Rosebud who was a china black doll, with gold earrings and bright red lips, and another doll whose body and limbs were stuffed with filling.  I remember her arms split and she was sent to the dolls hospital to be made better. I had a lovely little china dolls tea-set which I would play with for hours.  Mum would let me have water and I pretended it was real drink.  Of course there were five stones, hopscotch, the hoola hoop and books which I loved.  My favourites were by Enid Blyton and I progressed up from Noddy and Big Ears to the Famous 5 and the Secret 7. I also used to have her magazine delivered. I remember the excitement one birthday of being given my own little wooden bookcase as a present.  I also had a scooter which had a wooden footplate and I also remember being bought roller skates.  These had metal wheels and I tried vainly to master the art of skating by going up and down the alley at the side of our house holding onto a broom for support. Never did get to grips with them. 

I was never allowed a bike, even when a teenager.  This was in the days before motorways and each summer in particular, the Watling Street which Lancelot Avenue led onto, was jammed solid with traffic heading towards the seaside.  Consequently motorists in the know (and in particular lorry drivers) would use Lancelot and Elaine as shortcuts.  Mum was terrified and so I was never allowed a bike.

There were no activity clubs like today. There was only Brownies for the girls and Cubs for the boys. I was a ‘pixie’ and did all the usual ‘badges’ but also remember being taught how to darn using a wooden mushroom (presumably for socks and jumper elbows!) The other thing that sticks in my mind is learning how the Union Jack was comprised. We had paper crosses for St George of England and Wales, the white saltier of St Andrews for Scotland and the red saltier of St Patrick for Ireland. by layering them one on top of the other made up the Union Jack. (I though this so clever.)

I went to a Saturday morning cinema club just for children. It was at the bottom of Star Hill on the lower road. I am not sure if it was called the Gaumont or Odeon. If you were a member of the club you would be sent a card on your birthday and this allowed you free entry for that week.

During the summer holidays mum would take me out for the day either to the Strand at Gillingham, or to the outdoor swimming pool in Gravesend. To get to the Strand we would get a bus to Chatham and then change and get another to Jezreels tower, then a short walk.  The Tower was still there, albeit uncompleted and was a familiar landmark. We would spend the whole day there. Mum would pack sandwiches and she would sit sunning herself whilst I played in the children’s paddling pool there.  The area where the pool was sited was set down so it created a suntrap. The pool itself was oblong and had a metal pole from one end to the other, and at each end was a water cascade. Obviously the water got deeper by the middle pole.

Sometimes on a Sunday we might go with dad. Then I often got to ride on the little steam engine and also go on the swing boats with dad (I was usually sick after this). Dad would also take me out on the pedal boats in the boating pool.

The Gravesend open air pool was very different and we tended not to go there so much. There were 2 outdoor pools, one for the adults and the other the paddling pool, but it was not as large as the one at the Strand. Again mum would settle herself down and I would be free to splash and play around all day there. There was a white building, which housed a café on the top, and I guess the underneath bit was where we went in and the changing rooms were. Just outside this were table tennis tables.

Sundays were always special to me because dad was at home. During the week he would not get home until 7 each evening and as a child I would be out looking for him, sometimes going to the top of the road to see if I could spot him walking up. I always remember him wearing a belted raincoat and a trilby hat. Always smart was dad.

When I was old enough I would attend Sunday school down at St Francis in the morning.  You only wore your best clothes on Sundays and were never allowed to play outside in the street. After lunch we sometimes went out, maybe to the castle gardens in Rochester, or to visit relatives and in the summer we would often go for walks through Cobham woods.   Sometimes on a summer evening we would all walk down to the Coach and Horses public house and sit on the wall opposite, which was outside the toilets, and watch all the traffic returning from the coast. The A2 being the only route got chock-a-block each weekend.  Other times we might walk in the other direction to the Three Crutches Public House and sit outside with a drink, although mum and dad were not really drinkers.  I would have lemonade and a bag of Smiths crisps with the little blue bag of salt in.

Cobham woods was a favourite for Sunday afternoons when the weather was good. Mum sometimes would pack a small picnic and we would eat it up on the ‘banks’ on the way there. In the spring we would go and pick primroses and tie them into little bunches when we got home and give to some of the neighbours. Later it would be bluebells and dad would show me the special way of doing this by pulling them by their stem.  Walking in the woods I would be told the names of trees and plants and I always remember ‘old mans beard’. It used to fascinate me. It was dad who taught me the names of wild flowers, and I loved being in the woods with him.

Another memory I have of Sundays is the ‘winkle man’ who used to come round. He would call out as he went down the road to let people know he was there (like the scrap man today or the old rag and bone man) I used to play with the little black spots that came from the winkles, put them on my face like a beauty spot.  Mum was partial to cockles, and quite a few Sundays I would go to Leysdown with dad and the man over the road and collect them from the beach mud and bring them home.  One day mum instead of putting them into boiling water forgot and put them into cold.  As the water heated up the cockles emitted a horrible noise as they were obviously slowly being cooked alive.  Mum never ate a cockle again.

Christmas used to be a really special time as it was when all the family would get together. It was usually at my grandparents in Essex and this was the only time I recall the parlour or ‘best room’ being used. (For some reason we never went to dads parents in Wainscott). The house was a typical Victorian terrace and had 2 main bedrooms with a much smaller room leading off of one of them. There used to be so many staying (mum was one of 6) that we had to sleep either top to bottom in bed (maybe 4/6 at a time) or sleep on the floor at the side of the beds.  The toilet was outside, so chamber pots were in use.  In the morning they would be put at the doorway by the top of the stairs ready for emptying.

Trestles for extra tables, and planks put between chairs were used to accommodate everyone at mealtimes.  It must have been some mammoth task in granny’s relatively small kitchen, but there always seemed plenty of everything.  The treat at dinner-time was when the Christmas pudding was served.  The lucky ones would find a small silver sixpence in their portion. (Am wondering if this was a ploy to make the children actually eat the pudding as not a favourite with most.) And as if this was not enough, in the evening everyone would sit down to a large ‘tea’. It was a splendid sight once laid out. Bowls of salad; plates of cold meats; sticks of celery in tubs; cheese; jars of home made pickled onions and chutney and piccalilli and piles of bread and butter. Once everyone had had their fill the table would be cleared and the puddings and cakes laid out. There would be blancmanges and jellies moulded into special shapes, tinned fruit salad and of course evaporated milk.  There was usually an iced Christmas cake and a Dundee cake to finish you off with! 

It does sound as if the family were quite well off with such fare, but remember there were a lot of us and I recall each aunt and uncle would be responsible for getting certain things (mum and dad always got the fruit. The apples were usually Cox’s and came from the farm at Wainscott. They used to be harvested and then packed in wooden crates and kept under their bed until Christmas).  Total costs would be worked out and everyone paid their share.  The other thing is that many of the things were homemade. The Christmas puddings, the Christmas cake, all the chutneys and pickles etc.

The only entertainment apart from the very large wind-up gramophone was what we made for ourselves.  Because there were so many of us, games with 2 teams were possible.  Having to pass a balloon from one to another down the line without using your hands or arms, or another was a bowl with dried peas in it.  You had to move them from there into another bowl using only a straw.  They sound very tame now but it was a lot of fun and I can remember lots of laughter.

For me the most exciting time (apart from first waking and finding Father Christmas had been) was after lunch. This was the time when each year Father Christmas always visited. There would be a knock on the door and someone would go and let him in. A stooped figure clad in a red gown and cloak with a long white beard carrying a small sack over his shoulder.   ‘Hello everyone’ he would say in a very deep voice, and then he would approach the children and in turn ask our names. I would stand there transfixed, hoping he would ask me to help him hand out the presents that he would take down off the large Christmas tree, but also terrified at the same time.  For many years that I believed him to be real, but one year I noticed that Father Xmas had on brown shoes just like my uncle (who also just happened to be missing).  I was sworn to secrecy by mum because I still had younger cousins who believed.

Perhaps this marked the beginning of my transition from childhood into the world of ‘grown ups’.  In the 50’s I don’t think the term ‘teenagers’ had even been coined.  Quite probably things didn’t change all that much, just my perception of them.  Things that had excited and satisfied as a youngster were now being replaced by different feelings and desires, and rebellion……….

More to follow

Title: Re: From then to Now
Post by: oobydooby on July 23, 2014, 21:01:38
Thanks for your fascinating and evocative memories.  I too have fond memories of the Strand.  I hope there is a lot more to come.

Title: Re: From then to Now
Post by: peterchall on July 23, 2014, 22:45:56
More memories resurrected – winkles for tea on Sundays, dug out with a pin. Can you still buy those anywhere? (Winkles, not pins!) Also shrimps, long before anything so posh as prawns and scampi.

I had 2 teddies. One was called ‘Teddy’ and the other one was ‘Both’. Apparently the reason being that I was asked which one I would like and, enterprising as ever, answered “Both” :)

The cinema at the bottom of Star Hill was originally the Majestic, changing to both Gaumont and Odeon, so your memory is not faulty. See:

Keep the posts coming :)
Title: Re: From then to Now
Post by: ann on July 26, 2014, 13:38:25
Slight change of plan. Before I progress to my wild and wanton teenage years, here are some snippets that have come back to me from earlier in my life.

The only home entertainment when I was young was a wireless or TV. We got our TV quite early on. Programmes were only on for a few hours each day and in between programmes there was something called an ‘interval’ where either a radio mast of Alexander Palace was shown or a potter’s wheel, or my favourite, a kitten playing with a ball of wool. Each evening just before it shutdown the National Anthem would be played and then the screen would go blank with just a white blob in the centre and a humming sort of noise. Our TV had a small screen housed in an enormous wooden piece of furniture. There were two wooden doors which opened to display the screen, and these were kept closed when not in use. Interference was common from other electrical items, so if something was switched on nearby, even a cars engine outside, it would make the picture all fuzzy and have a crackling sound. I can recall watching the Queen’s coronation in 1953, but not sure when we actually got the TV. It is the only time I can recall my paternal grandparents coming to our house, to watch it. I was only 6 at the time and found it very boring!  There were some programmes just for children and I remember Andy Pandy and Lobby Lou, a Mexican called Hank, and Muffin the Mule with Annette Mills. 

The wireless was still by far the most common form of home entertainment.  Sunday lunchtime would not have been complete without Billy Cotton and his Wakey Wakey Club.  For children there was Listen with Mother every weekday afternoon. It would go "are you sitting comfortably, then I will begin", and a story would be read out.  This was not to be missed and mum and I would settle down each afternoon to listen.  In the winter the coal fire would be alight and we would sit in the twilight with just the glow of the embers, a magical sight.  Sparks would sometimes fly off the coals and up the chimney and I imagined them to be fairies.

Of course there were no supermarkets and all shopping was done from small dedicated shops. Bakers, greengrocers, ironmongers, grocers etc. The grocery shop in Cuxton Road was the one that mum used. (I think in later years it has been used as a pine shop) I do not know what it was called but know, I hated the smell inside. I think it must have been from curing the bacons.  Rationing would still have been operating but of course I was far too young to understand this. Eventually I can remember mum would have her groceries delivered. She would put in her order book and pay for the previous weeks, and a van would arrive with the shopping.  As I got older I used to love the grocery delivery.  I would play pretend shops for hours with it.  Strange to think we have gone back to this home delivery with online shopping. 

The route we took when we walked to Strood would be via the little back streets that ran at the back of Cuxton Road. We would cut through Smith and Temple Streets (now the site of Tescos). I remember that one of the houses had a pond with ducks I used to like to see.  The High Street was very narrow particularly opposite the Angel.  There was Hills the fishmonger on that sharp bend, and a little further along Pinks the stationers which was my favourite shop.  Woolworth of course was there and a large department store, whose name escapes me, selling miscellaneous ‘luxury’ goods.  Opposite Woolworth was an old cinema but I never went there.  I think it was called the Waldof or Wardonia. 

On Saturdays mum and I would often go to Chatham (Dad would always have been working). We would go to either Di Marco’s at the top of the High Street where I would always have a cheese sandwich (the freshest bread I ever tasted, full of finely grated cheese). This would be followed by ice-cream with strawberry sauce on.  At some point British Home Stores started doing dinners, and this was always very popular with people.  It was at the back of the store and was self service in as much as you queued up with your tray and made your way down shelves displaying cold pastries and puddings to where the hot food was dished up by lady servers from large heated containers. Then you would proceed to the till and pay.  Because it was so popular you sometimes had to wait for seats and I was always sent off whilst mum queued to find a couple of seats and save them. 

When it was time to go home we would make our way back to Military Road to catch the bus, number 144.  The bus stop was somewhere near the surgical appliance store and the large corner store which sold all the military uniforms.  When we got indoors mum would boil up a kettle and we would soak our aching feet in a bowl of hot water. At Christmas I would be taken to get my Christmas dress. There was a small clothes shop, up near Di Marcos, that we went to every year.  It was quite a treat getting a new dress and I used to get quite excited.

Sometimes we might just go into Rochester and mum would take me to the little gardens at the back of Eastgate House, where Dickens chalet is now. There were large ponds there had the most enormous fish, and they would be full of bright coloured water lilies. There were sheltered seats that were provided for visitors to use. Eastgate House at that time was the Museum.  From what I recall of it it was a very ‘boring’ and ‘dusty’ place that had room upon room of stuffed birds and small animals in glass domes. I do remember a large dark, wood panelled room on the left as you went in, floor to ceiling. (I read up much later that it had come from a large house in Strood called the Gables which stood on the corner of Gun Lane and the High Street. It was bought by the Council in 1927 for £2500 on condition that the panelling be removed to Eastgate House Museum. It was demolished later that year for road widening).   Anyway I know that eventually the museum moved and Eastgate House became the Dickens Centre.

Sometimes we would go to the castle gardens and play mini golf. You could also buy bird food from a man near where the toilets were housed to feed the pigeons.

There was a very large market held in Rochester on a Friday. It was off Corporation Street on a large site running along side the railway track. Very occasionally we might go, but mum was not much of a market goer.

If we were in Rochester a treat would be to go to one of the Oldie Worldie tea rooms there.  Cakes would be brought on a cake stand and you chose which one you wanted and only paid for those you ate. The room would be full of little tables with linen tablecloths and chairs, and the smell of polish used on the highly shiny floors which were all uneven. Tea would be served in a bone china teapot, with matching sugar bowl and milk jug and delicate cups and saucers. 

The other thing Rochester boasted was an outdoor swimming pool.   My parents never took me there, but I used to go with friends in the summer holidays.  It was nothing back then to walk to and fro places, and even as children we were allowed unaccompanied. The only time you would get a bus was if the distance was unreasonable, and what today’s youngsters would consider unreasonable is certainly not what we did.  To go from Strood to the swimming baths at Rochester would be considered a walking journey – there and back. Some days in the summer holidays it got so busy they operated time sessions. Only a certain number would be let in for a set period of time. Then when they left, another group let in.  Didn’t seem to bother us the waiting, we used to go and sit on the grass bank opposite.   This would have been known as Backfields I think which is behind St Margaret’s Church. We obviously hadn’t been given a set time to get home otherwise I suspect there would have been some panicking parents, but this just didn’t seem to happen.  Obviously our safety was always assumed.

Despite the relative freedom in certain areas we had back then, there were different types of restrictions imposed.  For example a certain standard of behaviour was expected.   It was certainly ‘children should be seen and not heard’ when there were adults talking.  We had to either sit or stand quietly until we were spoken to.  Heaven forbid we tried to interrupt, or even fidget. There were rituals and manners at mealtimes.  You were always sent off to wash your hands first, you were expected to clear your plate, and once you had finished you had to sit and wait until everyone was finished before asking to `get down`. You were expected to sit quietly waiting and not fidget and after each meal I had to say grace.   Thank God for my good dinner, please may I get down now.  At night time I also had to say bedtime prayers and would take it in turn to kneel at either mum or dads feet. "God bless mummy and daddy, nannies and granddads, aunts and uncles and all kind friends, - and teddy".
As children we were always expected to give up our seat on a bus if it was full and grown-ups standing.  Likewise, holding open doors for adults, and not just rushing in on our own, and giving way to adults in crowded areas and corridors.

Of course there were set rules for adults too.  One vivid memory of such is when there was a death.  If a hearse went by in the streets, men would ‘doff’` their hats as a sign of respect and men would always walk on the outside of the pavement if with a female. I witnessed what happened a couple of times when someone in the road where we lived had died. Curtains would be pulled shut when the funeral cortège arrived with the hearse and until that and the mourners had left. Everyone would stay indoors.  If the death was in the family it was common to wear a black armband on your sleeve. I remember my dad wearing a wide black band on the left arm of his coat. I assume this was when his mum died in the late 50’s, because it wasn’t done then to talk about such things with children.  I do remember having to spend an afternoon with a neighbour whilst mum and dad had to ‘go somewhere’ and I suppose somehow put the two and two together.
Mum and dad were not churchgoers, but on the rare occasions we did all attend I used to find it puzzling that men would be expected to take their hats off, but women were expected to wear one.
Title: Re: From then to Now
Post by: John38 on July 26, 2014, 13:58:36
It was a different age, Ann. I still walk on the outside.

I can remember my old mum coming in a bit late, unusual for her.
  'You're late, mum.'
  'Been with Mrs Jones.'
  'Is she feeling better?'
  'No. She died and I've just been laying her out on her kitchen table, Put her best dress on; she looks lovely. Now are you ready for your tea?'
  'Er ... do you mind washing your hands first ...?'
True story!
Title: Re: From then to Now
Post by: Sentinel S4 on July 26, 2014, 14:16:10
A different age with different values. I wish they were still in place! Even though I'm a mid 1960's vintage I well remember may of the values still being looked for and expected. Happy, happy days thanks for reminding us all Anne.

Title: Re: From then to Now
Post by: Signals99 on July 29, 2014, 12:41:47
 :)Hi Ann, thank you for all your memories, enjoyed them immensely?
I'm a few years older than you, vintage 1941, I can associate with many of your recollections. The Strand
Di Marcos, the Cardona, Saturday morning pictures, who can forget Hopalong Cassidy & Gabby Hayes?
My sister worked at Pains Strood and Chatham branches for many years, ended up as chief cashier.
We lived in Rochester, Union street until it was demolished .
Ann, I guess your family would be classed as middle class in those days, we had a few good memories,
I was the youngest of six, five sisters and one brother, plus mum and dad living in a two bedroom house.
My memories are not so cosy as yours, mainly being hungry and cold most of the time, but still we survived, just,
not wingeing just saying it was not all beer and skittles.
Title: Re: From then to Now
Post by: ann on July 30, 2014, 17:14:44
I am glad so many of you are enjoying my memories and are being transported back to your own youths.  I was very interested reading your comments Signals99, about me being in a middle class family.  I had never really thought about it before.  I had never considered we were ‘well off’`.  For example, dad never ever got a car.  He always said that if he did the cost of running it would mean we would not be able to go away each year for a week at the seaside in a boarding house, or have other little ‘luxuries’.    I must have existed in some little comfortable ‘bubble’ and nothing outside of my world ever penetrated it.  To hear about you, and many more like you I suspect, going hungry and cold and cramped into such small homes, is indeed a sobering thought now. 

I am also aware that I have not written about external affairs that were happening as I grew up.  Peterchall has such vivid and insightful thoughts and memories of the war for example. But there was really very little outside of my own little world that I can recall, possibly because I was just never aware of it.

I can remember mum’s beige coloured Ration Books she took with her when we went to the shops but not why she had them.  I also recall hearing ‘Strood High Street is under water……  lives lost….’ I think this must have been the floods in 1953, and whilst Strood was indeed flooded, I think it was Sheppey area that people died.  Another vague memory is of ‘poor refugees…..fleeing here to safety….Hungary….’ This I can now link with 1956 and the Red Army troops invading Hungary to suppress the Revolution.

It was not until I reached my teens that I became more aware of external affairs. The first I recall vividly was the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.  I was in the school dining hall and everyone was waiting for the midday deadline with fear, praying that the ships would turn back.  I became very ‘anti’ things.  The establishment, apartheid and the bomb.  I became a member of the local CND movement, but more about that in a further instalment.
Title: Re: From then to Now
Post by: ann on July 31, 2014, 16:36:26
“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”   1 Corinthians  13.11



From secondary school onwards I recall a marked change in how I viewed life, what I wanted from it, and how I behaved.  I am afraid I was a very rebellious teenager and must have caused my poor mum and dad so much heartache. They just seemed so old fashioned, not helped by the fact they were some years older than all of my friend’s parents (mum was 35 when she had me which was quite late back then) and I felt they did not understand me at all!  From fashion to music to behaviour – I rebelled.

Music even back then was mega important for teenagers and I remember I had a red Dansette record player which took up to 6 records at a time. The first record I bought was a 78 rpm in Woolworth on their own label Embassy.  ‘Wonderful Time up There’.  Then EP’s and 45 rpm followed. Originally you had to purchase records from electrical shops and I recall buying a couple from John Burns, an electrical shop, in Bryant Road in Strood. (Mum and dad rented their TV’s from him for many years. When it needed repairing he would take the old one away to fix and bring a replacement so we were not left without one).

Eventually larger stores began to sell them and in the 60s Boots in Chatham began to stock them. It had 2 entrances, one in Military Road via a large revolving door and the other in High Street (opposite what  is now TK Maxx)  Originally there was another store that actually occupied the corner plot, but Boots must have acquired the site, and they extended into this space a fashion jewellery section and a record department. They had a dedicated record section and you could ask to listen to a record before buying it. You would go into a little booth and put a set of headphones on.  Imagine how busy this got on a Saturday.

I think it was around this time that store layouts changed. Gone were the high up counters where you usually had to ask for things and in their place were much lower counters at waist height with goods displayed so you could not only see them, but touch and inspect.

It was a time when teenagers began to want a voice.  Indeed it was probably about this time that the term was coined. Fashion was totally important and you strived to look the part – which resulted in everyone actually looking the same. It was the 60s and shops for teenage girls were only just about to emerge.  Back then you went from being a girl to a woman. One of the first stores dedicated solely to teenage fashion was Martin Fords in Chatham High Street  and the first outfit I bought there was a yellow button up blouse and a brown box pleated skirt.  By then shoes had gone from pointed winkle pickers to chisel toes with straps across.  I wore these to a dance at the Town Hall in Chatham and thought I looked ‘the bee’s knees’.

Often it was down to making or improvising the clothes we wanted to wear. I had a patterned sleeveless over blouse that I made by hand and I teamed this with a Prince of Wales check skirt.  I had to take it in to make it into a fashionable ‘wiggle’ skirt and the only way to board a bus wearing it was to hold the rail and hop on with both feet.  I wore the outfit with a pair of white stilettos that had long pointed toes and a white button decoration on top.  I must have looked like Minnie Mouse.  I had gone into Strood on my own and bought the shoes with money I had been given for my birthday.  Mum was not very pleased and said I had to take them back.  I didn’t and ended up keeping and wearing them. Here is a photo of me just prior to the tight skirts. I am wearing the fashionable full skirted dress, with underlaying lace petticoats. The very wide, big buckled belt and the white stilettos!

Stockings and suspenders were still worn and tights didn’t come in until some time in the 60’s (not sure if because of the tightness of skirts, or the advent of the mini). I well remember my first pair. It was around the mid 60’s and I had bought them to wear to a wedding. They were very expensive when they first came onto the market.  Not being used to them I just went to yank them up – and of course ended up putting my fingers straight through one of the legs.  I remember back in the 50’s my mother used to get her stockings repaired at a haberdashery shop in Darnley Road.  (Invisible mending it was called). 

Another memory is of sitting in a bath of cold water in a pair of denim jeans to try and shrink them.  Mum came home and caught me, they didn’t shrink and I had blue dyed legs for a while!

Hair fashion also changed at this time. Our mums had gone in for perms and shampoos and sets. Mum used to go fortnightly to a ladies hairdressers in Strood.  The lady owner was Mrs Thompson.  In the school holidays I had no choice but to go with mum.  I think there were 2 basins, just small ordinary ones. You had to lean forward with your head over the sink and mum would be given a flannel to cover here eyes whilst it was being washed.  I remember if you wanted conditioner this would be extra.  From what I recall, mum had a perm every 3 to 4 months with shampoo and sets in between.  Some people would do their own and you could buy home perm kits and Armani waving lotion.

The 60’s heralded the beehive. The bigger and higher the better (and you could do it yourself).  Hair was backcombed and then held in place by hair lacquer.  This was a very sticky substance which you purchased in a glass bottle from Woollies and then had to tip into a plastic spray bottle to use.  Think there must have been some sugar content to it – made hair rock hard.
Make up was pale whitish faces, and very dark eyeliner. This was flicked up at the outer corners. Mascara was in a little case, and comprised of a little block of mascara and a brush.  You had to wet the mascara to use it (spit was commonly used) and then the brush loaded with it.  Lips were also virtually white. (Think Dusty Springfield).

Gone now were the family outings (unless made to if visiting relatives).  Instead I would want to meet up with friends.  A favourite destination on a Sunday was the castle gardens at Rochester. A couple of girlfriends and I would walk over from Strood and then walk around the grounds (didn’t Jane Austen mention this Sunday perambulation at the Crescent in Bath in Georgian times?) posing.  A group of boys would also have the same idea and we would ‘bump into each other.  We also used to regularly go into the castle itself.  They had wooden seats back then up in the corner towers on the higher floors and we would sit chatting together for ages. (Much to my shame I remember carving my initials in one).

Sometimes in the summer I would walk to Chatham to go to Boots to listen to the latest records, or see what was in Martin Fords. On the way back one time I went down to Sun Pier where some boys were in one of the little moored boats there and were fishing (or so I thought). It wasn’t fish it was eels and I squealed with fright as one of the boys held one out to me. The route back was usually along the top of the banks in New Road via Victoria Gardens.

There were not really that many places for teenagers to go of an evening. I recall dance nights that were held weekly in the hall of a Club at the bottom of Cedar Road. I think this was the Workman’s Club. This was the era of the stiff net petticoats over large skirted dresses, and wide buckled belts. Jive was in and back then I was light enough for the boys to be able to do all the lifting and swinging me through their legs. It was great fun.  I can still jive now, or should I say I can remember how to do it, but I don’t fancy the chances of anyone trying to do the lifting!!

The other place I used to go to was Strood youth club, but only on a Friday night which was when there was music and dancing.  Songs of the time were by Neil Sedaka, Paul Anka, I remember Cliff Richard and his hit The Young Ones.  It was at this time that The Twist and Chubby Checker made an appearance (there was even a ‘twist’ dress that came out – and I had one. Candy striped it was) and Little Eva with The Locomotion.  I used to go with my girlfriend from school called Ruth and we became friends with others there and as a group we used to also meet up at Bunnies which was a coffee bar near the Esplanade in Strood.  Another venue was the Casa Ventana (now an antique shop) in Rochester. They had a downstairs section which was where all we youngsters would go.  It was dark and had alcoves with tables where we used to sit. There was a jukebox.  We would stay there for a couple of hours, with just one coffee (if we didn’t get found out). There was a third coffee bar I recall, The Parlour in Rochester, next to the alley that runs up from the bottom road to the New Road at the side of St Barts, but we didn’t seem to use this one, don’t know why.

Anyway one the boy’s fathers ran the Three Gardeners pub in Strood and we would also sometimes would meet in an upstairs room there for an impromptu party and I recall another boy’s father ran a fish and chip shop somewhere up the Frindsbury Road. Again we were allowed to meet and play records in an upstairs room.

I was definitely a difficult teenager, and was very into boys.  I started young and it was at Elaine junior school that I had my first boyfriend. His name was Keith Dennis and the first day I met him he was wearing a leather jerkin and walking round the playground pretending to be a robot. I also remember he took me to the pictures, and I got teased by my grandparents about it.  I remember being ‘sweet’ on him (as my mother would say) for quite a few years. However by the time I was in my teens I was much more into ‘rough boys’. Keith was too nice, and when he asked to take me out I found excuses to say no.

Anyway one particular Friday evening Ruth and I decided to leave the youth club and go down to Forests fair which was on in Strood. This was an annual event held each August, on land between Grange Road and Station Road.  It was here that I met Johnny, my husband to be (my first real boyfriend).  He worked on the Octopus ride and of course the lads working at the fair would spin the various cars on the rides to make then go faster, and get the girls screaming, and then chat them up as they got off. We began going out together, and one of our favourite places to go was the old Rec. in Strood.  Back then you could go down a little alley just off Woodstock Road and into the top of it. There were wooden benches where we could sit and be alone and it didn’t matter what the weather was like, we just never seemed to be aware of it. 

On leaving school I had a very brief spell working in London as a shorthand typist.  I remember going for the interview, the position was for a junior secretary, quite ambitious having just left school. Anyway I was given a test and the interviewer said smiling that he felt I was not quite ready for the position of junior secretary, but he could offer me a job as a junior shorthand typist. I said yes and he asked ‘when do you want to start’. I just cannot believe the brazenness of my reply, but I guess it was just the confidence of youth as I replied ‘well I have travelled all this way today so I might as well start now!’   I can’t say I enjoyed the travelling each day.  Strood station is not conveniently situated. I would walk to the station each morning, but of an evening wait for a bus by Wingets, just by the bridge.  Was rarely home before 7 each evening.  Wage was £8 per week, and had to find all my own train fares.

Johnny and I continued to see each other and it got very serious.  Most families did not have phones and mine was no exception. The only way we could communicate was by post, and during the weekdays we would write everyday to each other.  SWALK would be written on the back where the envelope was sealed, or ILY.  Soon we wanted to get married. My parents were horrified and I can quite understand why now as I was only 16 at the time.  Anyway Johnny and I did end up getting married, I gave up work and the following year my only daughter was born.

Title: Re: From then to Now
Post by: Lyn L on July 31, 2014, 18:27:41
OH  :) I had those  exact shoes and the sugar stiffened petticoats and the beehive hairdo's  :) we most probably were at the same venues at the same time. Thanks for all of the memories Ann. More please
Title: Re: From then to Now
Post by: peterchall on July 31, 2014, 20:23:48
More memories stirred up!
I knew the annual fair as just ‘Strood Fair’.

Listening to a record before you bought it – and there was only one tune on each side of the record. Just after the war shops didn’t actually stock records, but just kept samples that you could listen to and then order if you liked it -. It would then take a few days for the shop to obtain it.

Castle Gardens seemed to have been popular with youngsters from all over the towns down the ages. I lived within 10 minutes walk and was there one evening with a mate when these two girls from somewhere called Chatham approached – the end result is described in my life writings. Those gardens have a lot to answer for!

Another parallel in our lives is meeting over a boy’s dad’s pub – in my case it was my dad’s pub, and dad kept a watchful eye on the drink consumption.

You mentioned in an earlier post that I included external affairs in my life writing. I did that to give an idea of the background against which we lived our daily lives. I think in your case it would have been the ‘Cold War’ – the Berlin Blockade, Korean War, Suez, Cuban Missile Crisis, Revolt in Hungary – which could have erupted at any time into ‘Hot War, and which always seemed to overshadow things. Perhaps the ‘Swinging Sixties’ were such because it could have been a case of ‘Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die’.

Sorry Ann, I’m rambling on. Keep the posts coming :).
Title: Re: From then to Now
Post by: TomCat on July 31, 2014, 20:44:51
Fantastic memories ann, I look forward to further instalments.

I'm only 1955 vintage myself but one day I'll try and find time to write down some tales and memories from my own upbringing (by older parents), I have an older sister of 8 years and recall her going through her teenage years in the 60's

Title: Re: From then to Now
Post by: ann on August 03, 2014, 14:22:32

Part 1.

Following my marriage in 1963 Johnny and I began our married life living with his parents in Dartford. My daughter was born the following January at West Hill hospital.  Weighing in at 4lb 12 oz (born early at only 8 months) she was placed in an incubator and I had to wait until she reached 5lb before I was allowed to bring her home. I was discharged from the hospital and had to go home and leave her there. It was usual back then for women to stay in hospital following childbirth for at least 10 days, the first few being confined to bed. How very different from now. I can still remember the day I left. I was in such a frail state and I stumbled and fell as I got in the taxi. The driver must have thought I had lost the baby and refused to take any fare from us. I would walk to the hospital each day that she was there and stay as long as they would allow me.

Whilst living with the in-laws I got a part time job for a short while at Vickers Armstrong in Powder Mill Lane on the ‘twilight shift’ 4pm to 8pm. They made army and government office furniture – filing cabinets etc. it was noisy and dirty manual work and I was glad to leave.  One particular job was dipping metal items that had been covered in grease to stop them rusting into large tanks full of a liquid that would clean it off.  I have no idea what toxic liquid it contained but you could see fumes rising from it and you always went home with a nauseating headache. (No health and safety back then!).

A few years later we were later given the opportunity of buying a brand new house on a large development the Council were building, Fleet Estate.  Our house was in Lunedale Road, and I recall it was still very much in the process of looking like a building site everywhere.  There was a Spar mini store by the time I left, but no school and the estate nowhere near completion.  Not sure if there was even a bus service at first.  I can recall pushing my daughter in a large 4 wheel pram up and down East Hill.   At the top of East Hill is the cemetery and at the foot of it the church, hence the saying ‘Dirty Dartford, peculiar people, bury their dead above the steeple.’

Dartford at that time had a lot of good shops.  There was the very large Co-op store (recently demolished and now sadly just an empty piece of land). It had its entrances in both Spital Street and Hythe Street. I  am not sure now if it had 2 or 3 floors but I do remember an escalator. It seemed to carry virtually every type of merchandise and it was from here I bought my daughters pram. It even had its own café.  Another large store was Potts. This was where Argos is now. Again it seemed to stock very similar things to the Co-op, apart from furniture.  Woolworth was where Iceland is now.  This did have 2 floors, one at pavement level and another you went down stairs to.  I think that there was also a small Tesco store opened in Lowfield Street which was self service, the forerunner of supermarkets which were to follow.

Unfortunately things began to go bad quite early on and we got into a lot of debt. We legally separated for a while and I went back to Strood with my daughter and lived with my parents, but because we used to meet when I took my daughter to see her other grandparents, we got back together and I moved back to Dartford.  I had to go to work to try and help sort things out and I got a job working for an estate agents in Bexley, Kirrage Jones & Co.  Sadly things still did not work out and I left Dartford in 1969 having got a divorce and I moved back to Strood as a single parent.

Part 2 to follow
Title: Re: From then to Now
Post by: ann on August 04, 2014, 12:49:32
Part 2

Initially I moved back in with my parents again, but within a couple of weeks was offered a flat in the relatively newly built tower block called Laurel Court just off Darnley Road. (no waiting list at that time!).  Size wise it was not bad. You had a very large area when you went in with a walk-in storage cupboard.  There were 2 bedrooms, a bathroom/wc.  Kitchen and main living room leading out onto a small balcony and a fitted drying cupboard.  The flat had warm air central heating.  Each floor of Laurel Court (and its sister block Rosemary Court) had 3 flats each side of the central stairwell and lift.  There was also a large chute on the landings where you would put your rubbish.  I left the flats in 1977 and eventually they were demolished, I believe, sometime in 1986.   

Having moved back to Strood I needed to find local work. At the time I was still working in Bexley which was quite a distance travel to each day. Also, after paying the train fares, rent etc. I was left with only 9 shillings a week to feed and clothe both of us.  I determined to find a local job and on my first day off went for a couple of job interviews. I also went to the National Assistance Board, whose offices were situated up Castle Hill opposite the Castle Gardens, to ask for interim help whilst I got this sorted out.

It was not something to be done lightly as there was a lot of stigma attached to seeking help there.  I can still picture the scene (some 45 years later). I sat one side of a counter on a chair fixed to the floor, and a quite pleasant lady sat on the other. I explained my situation and she disappeared off to make enquiries. When she returned I could tell by her mannerisms it was not good news.  She was very apologetic (and I think a bit embarrassed) and said that she had been told that my request had been rejected on the grounds that I was working and that all the time I was then they could not help. I could not believe they were not willing to help me over this short transitional period. I was both upset and disgusted. I remember telling her that if that was the case I would hand my notice in the very next day and then they would have to give me full support - which I did. Back then only a weeks notice had to be given, and as it turned out I was offered a job from one of the firms I had attended an interview for. They delivered the offer letter by hand the following day as they obviously wanted to me to start as soon as possible and therefore put my notice in to my present employer (of course unknown to them I had already done so!)   I therefore may have needed help for just one week!!  I have never forgotten this. In fact there was no help at all available back then that I recall for one parent families and it was quite a number of years before child benefit would be paid for the first child.  Anyway I was young and well able to work and it would never have occurred to me not to try and pay my own way, and I felt very angry and let down (how times have changed with the handouts given today).

The job was with Ronald Bampton & Partners, estate agents in their Strood branch.  I was the receptionist typist.  The firm had 3 offices at the time, the others being at Rochester and Chatham.  There were 3 partners, Mr Wheaton who was rarely seen, he spent at least 6 months of the year holidaying abroad. He was an extremely tall and distinguished looking gentleman who smoked using a cigarette holder.  Another partner was Mr Benson who was based at Chatham and Mr McMurry, also at Chatham but in charge of rental properties. The Strood office also housed the mailing department upstairs.  Details of properties would be typed on ‘duplicate sheets that were then put on large rollers on a Gestetner duplicating machine and run off. A very mucky job. Another machine would then fold the printed details to fit into the envelopes which would have been prepared by having had address labels run off and stuck on manually.  Both very time consuming jobs.  Finally they were all brought downstairs to be franked on a machine in the office and then taken down to the main post office in Strood.

It was during my time there in the 70’s that gazumping took place.  A most unpleasant period. A sale would be arranged and sometimes, within the space of an hour, an increased counter offer could be made.  I suppose one could say it was greed on the part of the sellers, but in all honesty, human nature is what it is.  Sometimes the original purchaser (having been gazumped) would come back with an even higher offer. There were some quite unpleasant phone calls at this time and unhappy buyers, but as agents acting on behalf of the vendors we had to take their instructions. Caveat emptor – let the buyer beware.  It was worse when a sale had been proceeding for a little while and it happened.

It was also during this period (1973 I believe) when the 3 day week had to be introduced.  The coal miners were out on strike and power stations had not got enough stock piles of coal to fuel power stations and so we all had to be rostered for power cuts.  These would be published in local papers so you knew when you would be affected. The result was that much of industry and a great many workers were reduced to a 3 day working week.  We would still stay open, using candles to illuminate the office, and of course typewriters were still manual so the typists could carry on working too.  Remember going to Woolworth and buying the last stock of candles they had.  Cannot remember how it affected my home life now.

The other thing I recall during my time at Brampton’s was the development of land at Cliffe Woods and the construction of the housing estate. I think the developers were from St Austell in Cornwell. We obviously must have had the sole selling rights and initially the ‘site office’ was just a caravan in the middle of the large muddy area. A site manager would sit out there all day and each evening phone in with details of plots sold. He had been in the forces, RAF I believe, anyway his greeting each time would be ‘…here, stand by your beds’. Of course he was eventually moved into a proper show house, and I recall being taken out to have a look at it.  The whole development took many years to complete.

I worked my way up at Bamptons until I had staff working under me. I also did sales negotiating, arranged mortgages and liaised with solicitors and buyers and sellers; in fact the only thing I didn’t do was go out and take properties on and this was only because I could not drive.   Sadly my wages did not go up with the increased responsibilities and I left after a number of years to go and work at the Leeds Permanent Building Society in Chatham, I was quite sad to do so because I had enjoyed working there.

There is a brief period around this cross over time that I don’t want to go into, too personal and not of interest to the forum or you its readers.

However I soon started to enjoy my new job and I guess one of the reasons was I was dealing directly with people again which I really liked. This was in the 70’s and we had no glass screens separating us from the public with just a slot to do the transactions through. There was just us and the customers the other side of the counter.  This was pre computer time and all transactions were written in passbooks by hand, and on office sheets.  Each evening we had to balance sheets and money! Did not always work. It was so easy to have missed an entry or put on the wrong side of the sheet.  This was before modern calculators and we only had a large machine called an Ad-list.  You typed the numbers in, pulled a handle and got a printout on a roll of paper which was fed in at the top.  I never really liked to use this machine as I felt I was just as likely to input a figure wrongly.  Mental arithmetic was my forte.

Like the estate agents before, I had to work Saturday mornings.  Mum and dad had my daughter sleep over on Friday night because of this and they would wait outside the office at lunch time for me to finish (and balance!) and we would all go to lunch at The Paddock Restaurant in Military Road.  Excellent meals and very well priced.

Having a small child I obviously could not go out socially very much and really the only time was a Friday evening (daughter with parents as I had to work the next day|).

My ‘local’ for much of that time was the Crispin & Crispanius in Strood.  It was very popular with young people and a group of us would meet up and spend the evening there.  The landlords name was John and he had been in the Guards and his bearskin hat was displayed in a glass cabinet in one of the bars. After last orders we would very often go for a meal at the local Chinese restaurant.  There was a nightclub that opened in Strood sometime later called I think the Paradise Club.  It was down along from Wingets.  I don’t think I went there too often. There were two other nightclubs I recall. One was in Rochester/Chatham along the top New Road, and the other (still there now) was in Gravesend called The Grove.  These were places to go when the pubs had closed and you wanted to carry on drinking etc.   Back then there was no 24 hour drinking, pubs had to stick to rigidly laid down laws.  Opening at set times and closing at 11pm weekdays and 10.30pm on Sundays. Of course if you were friendly with the pub owner you might be invited to a ‘lock in’, but this was risky for him and not many were prepared to take the risk.

Because of my parents help with childcare etc. I got by okay on my wages. However, like my parents, and my previous experience of debt with my first husband leaving such bad memories, I believed in only buying what I could afford. I would save to purchase things, and make do with what I could not afford.  I only ever had a black and white TV as I could not afford the colour licence for example.

In any case, in those days to buy something with deferred payments meant taking out  ‘hire purchase’, also known as the  ‘never never’, and it was nigh on impossible for a woman to be able to take out a loan in her own right. Something that incensed me as to the unfairness of it.  It was no different when it came to being assessed for a mortgage; it was only the husband’s full salary that was taken into account.  Sometimes a small percentage of a wife’s would be, but rarely very much.  Of course this later went completely the other way and resulted in lots of foreclosures. (I have noticed this happen with lots of things. Change comes but instead of it being a positive thing it ends up with the pendulum swinging too far the other way.)

I also never had phone back then. I think it was about 1976 before both my parents and I did.  There was a long waiting list to get one and often you would opt for a party line so as to get one quicker (this was what I first had). The disadvantage obviously was that you sometimes cut into other people’s conversations, and likewise they could cut in or listen to yours.  It was expensive too, there was a connection charge of £60 (a lot back then).  There was only one type of handset, and at one time only one colour – black. If you wanted to have a different coloured phone (only about 3 to choose from, red, green or cream I think) you had to have had something wrong with your old one so you could get it replaced by BT.   There was nowhere else to get phones from, they had the monopoly.

Communication was largely done by post.  It was a good service back then, with at least 2 deliveries a day. But if you wanted to contact someone quickly or wanted to speak to someone directly then for many people the only way was to use public phone boxes.  This was something it was quite common to do and often queues would form outside waiting to use it.  You would make sure you went in armed with change to feed into the slots. If it was a long call people would be able to see you keep feeding more coins into the phone and you were likely to get some black looks from those waiting outside, or even a tap on the glass.  Everyone knows the distinctive looking red boxes.  Apart from the handset there was a black box with an A or B button.  A was pressed to connect to the call and B pressed to get your money back if the call did not connect.  You knew when to put more money in because a series of beeps would interrupt youth say your money was running out.  These phone boxes were a vital source of communication and there were always plenty to be found.  I cannot recall back then every finding one that was not working or heaven forbid had been vandalised.

Title: Re: From then to Now
Post by: peterchall on August 04, 2014, 19:30:40
Ann, your mention of pub ‘lock-ins’ after closing time reminds me of  a village pub in the 1970’s where the main danger was from passing police cars, because guess where the local bobby was!

Regarding that one type only telephone, does anyone remember the first departure from that – the Trimphone? Much smaller and neater looking, but still with a rotary dial.

At least in those days if you wanted to report a fault to the phone company (was it still the Post Office?) you could talk to a human being, and not have to press ‘1’ for this and ‘2’ for that, etc.
Title: Re: From then to Now
Post by: Jean on December 22, 2014, 18:02:51
Ann, I have enjoyed reading your memories so much. I pretty much followed in your footsteps. I too was born in 1947 in June. I went to Fort Pitt when I was 13 and remember Miss Elliott very well. Do you remember Mrs Smith who taught music? I did the secretarial course and loved every minute.  I found the school building very intimidating, especially the large classrooms, ex wards, which were divided into two.
Did you know that the library had previously been the mortuary? For book keeping lessons we had to cross the road to a building called St Peter's. I am unable to remember the teacher that took us for those lessons, she was not a lady to mess with though. I recall coming out of the main gate of Fort Pitt in 1963 and looking across at the Medway which was frozen over. I really must congratulate you on your memory, I thought mine was good but yours is amazing. I married in 1967.and continued to live in Rochester until 1970.
Title: Re: From then to Now
Post by: ann on December 22, 2014, 18:17:53
Thank you Jean for your kind comments.  Perhaps we were in the same year - maybe class even!!

I think the accounts teacher, very strict, was Miss Green. Shorthand and typing was taught by a lovely lady, Mrs Chatsworth (once a form teacher of mine), and commerce was with Mr Mortimer.

I cannot really remember the library but I do recall the cookery block was the mental asylum block.  I too had many lessons down at St Peters (now the Roffen Club).  It had a small concrete playground area at the back overlooking the railway line, and outside cold loos.  A vivid memory of being at St Peters was that those of us with a packed lunch could eat it in the large hall, and I had a copy of the FORBIDDEN Lady Chatterley's Lover, covered in brown paper to disguise it, which I read at lunchtime.

You mention seeing the frozen river Medway in 1963 as you came out of school.  I left Fort Pitt in the summer term of that year, so perhaps there is a year difference.